Champions Queue, Practice, and Improvement
I've been seeing a lot of discussion around Champions Queue lately, and I wanted to take the time to write out a post regarding a few specific points. Practice and improvement is a very deep, nuanced conversation so bear with me as this will be a LONG post.
#1. Champions Queue and its successes and failures, and how it can be improved, both logistically and from a cultural perspective.
#2 Attempting to define practice and improvement.
#3 My personal perspective from a decade of playing, living, and breathing league of legends on optimal training methods and how to improve.
I want to preface this with the fact that I hear the community and their complaints. I believe that we can do better as players and as a region in many ways, but I think that there is a lot of depth and nuance to this conversation and the answer to improvement isn't as simple as just play more games. I wrote this piece to hopefully add some context and my own perspective on the situation.
To start out with Champions Queue, I think being able to implement this with Riot was a huge success. For a long time, players would tell me that this was the #1 thing they wanted, and to finally be able to have it for players this year was awesome. Low ping, easy way to queue, and a smaller, more competitive pool of players was every NA player's dream. Now that we have had it for a few months, I think we can reflect more on the reality of its implementation. I think the community has had a LOT of valid criticism, but I think that there is also a lot of context that will give better perspective. First off, I think that there are certain changes that we needed to implement to CQ more quickly because they greatly improve the quality of the games, namely MMR and moderation of users in CQ.
#1: MMR - The current ranking system for champions queue is +10, -5. This brings up a lot of issues. Basically, with a 34% win rate, you can climb, so this can skew towards playing more as opposed to playing better. Another issue is that the games can be very unbalanced without an mmr system. I believe that quality of games is paramount and this was a consistent complaint I received from players. A lot of incentive is lost if you are more so rewarded on quantity OVER quality. Quantity is important, but quality should be at the centerpiece of effective practice. I believe, for example, that a player with 50 games and 60% winrate should be ranked higher than a player with 100 games and 50% winrate,
#2: Moderation: I think another important facet is moderating the players in champions queue and removing those who are severely underperforming. Of course, everyone has bad games, but when it gets to the point that certain players are consistently lowering the quality of the games and also being brought up to the council, I believe they should be removed to have a higher quality environment. If my name was brought up and I was lowering the quality of games for a consistent period, I would also want to be removed. I want NA to have the highest quality training experience possible.
This is a personal note, but I truly don't believe the majority of NA players are lazy. Some may be, but I believe that if something is clearly adding value to your career, you would do your best to keep that a constant in your life.
I would like to shift the conversation over to defining practice and improvement, but before I do that I would like to speak a bit on my personal perspective.
I have been playing professional league for almost a decade now. I have had many ups and downs in my career, and have learned a lot through the process. For all of my career, I have had a burning desire to improve and learn as much as I can so that I can be the best and win a world championship. For 99% of my career, I was the type of person who only focused on league. I was always watching vods, reflecting on my play, doing 1v1s, playing in inhouses whenever I could, researching my opponents, doing whatever I could to be the best. There was a restless desire to always be productive and always be moving towards this ideal of what it means to improve and succeed. I would even implement out of game things such as excercise to feel like I would doing EVERYTHING I could. Family, friends, a social life, everything was thrown to the wayside for the length of my career up to this point. However, in retrospect I realized that a lot of my efforts were very ineffective and in many cases even detrimental.
Esports is a very new field. In other skills, such as basketball or playing the piano, there have been countless decades of experience and research to build off on and imitate to get the best results. In our case, there is a lot of trial and error. Bluntly speaking, many coaches are similar in age and experience and are just starting to figure things out as well. Of course there are qualified coaches, but this is a very new thing. For this reason, I think it is very important for to define improvement and practice and be intentional about how we are approaching it, and continue to reflect on this process.
As an aside, I personally also think that if NA is going to be better than the other regions, it simply won't be through playing more. Not only is there a bigger player base in other regions with better ping, they are already better than us as well. So to be able to exceed them, our rate of improvement must be MUCH greater. And in my opinion, the best way to do that is to be VERY intentional with the way we approach our practice and our lifestyle so we can practice in smarter ways. I think there are so many things that can be done to improve practice methods, and so little of it is implemented. But before I get to that, I would like to attempt to define practice and improvement.
The first thing I will say is that improvement is not linear. We are not just dealing with the game league of legends. We are dealing with human beings. There are ebbs and flows, ups and downs, stagnation, all kinds of things. We want to do our best to put things into a system and way that we can define things and then have clear goals and accountability for improvement. That aspect is important. But at the same time,it is very important to take a holistic approach to our improvement. Every aspect of our lives matters towards our improvement. The basics of diet, sleep, and exercise are so clearly important but also so often underappreciated by players. Being able to come with 100% every day is a prerequisite that many players, myself included, have failed. Of course, you can't be at your best every day but there are many ways we can set ourselves up for success to be the best we can be that day.
Very simply, improvement is getting better. However, I think that to be able to diagnose and iterate on improvement is a whole different story. To truly be able to improve as an athlete, you need the perspective
Practice is the vehicle through which we improve. In the book, Peak: Secrets From The New Science Of Expertise, Anders Ericcson and Robert Poole define different types of practice. There are times where you can just be doing things without intention. We can have that as a baseline. As defined in the book, purposeful practice has specific, well defined goals. You break things down into smaller pieces, you have full attention on the task at hand, and thoughout the process there is reflection and iteration to keep improving. Deliberate practice takes it a step farther because it is purposeful practice that knows where it is going and how to get there. This is usually in highly developed fields where methods are refined and everything can be put into context.
Unfortunately, we don't have that luxury. But I would like to start the conversation on how we can isolate the variables in LoL and train more effectively. The current method of practice for many players (myself included for a long time) is to play full games of league.
Imagine if Kobe wanted to work on his free throw so he kept playing full basketball games. How many free throws do you think he would get? Probably not many. However, Kobe knows that he can just walk up to the free throw line and keep working on the same thing. AKA, a drill.
I think league lacks a lot of drills. This has already been a long post, but I'll quickly isolate two elements of league: champion mastery and mouse precision.
In every second of league, we are using our mouse to select a target. So mouse accuracy and control is a very vital component of being a league player. We can train this more directly by using something like aimbooster that specifically targets this aspect of the game.
Champion Mastery is another very key component to the game. If you want to get better at Fiora, instead of playing a full game of Fiora, you can go into the practice tool and get more precise on every aspect of Fiora. The auto attack animation, the combos, etc. etc. Then when you go into a full game after warming up in practice tool on the champion, you can reflect on the process and see what is improving and what individual aspects still work.
Of course, there is a LOT more to this discussion and as this was already a lengthy post, I didn't want to add even more in this single post. I hope you gained some perspective from this, and thanks for reading if you made it all the way to the bottom :D.
1.The community has valid complaints and criticisms, however the discussion of improvement and practice can be much more nuanced and deep than just practice more.
2. There were certain improvements to CQ we needed to be faster on that would have significantly increase the quality of the games and practice, and therefore, improve player participation.
3. NA won't beat other regions by just playing more, we must be very deliberate with our approach to practice and the game (i.e. develop new practice methods) because other regions are already better than us and have better practice environments. We must improve at a much higher rate than them by practicing more intentionally.
4. Esports, compared to basketball or playing piano, is a new field, and there is a lot we are still learning as we don't have decades of experience behind us. Acknowledging this fact is important so that we can go about the whole process in a smarter way.
5. Defining practice and improvement. Improvement is not linear. A holistic approach for athletes , and human beings, in any walk of life, is tantamount.
6. Volume of practice for athletes is something that should be dynamic, not static. There may be days where someone can practice 12 hours effectively, but there are also days where only 5 hours of effective practice is possible.
7. Thought experiment: How can we isolate the variables of league and train them independently?